In one week from today, on Sunday, October 21, in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, the world’s largest Jewish center will celebrate its grand opening, in the presence of world leaders, distinguished rabbis and Ukraine’s richest people The new Center, Menorah – Chabad Jewish Center, will serve the needs of the large Jewish population and the many Jewish businessmen visiting the city.
The idea behind Menorah – Chabad Jewish Center of Dnepropetrovsk, the world’s largest Jewish Center, is the brainchild of the President of the Denpropetrovsk Jewish Community, Mr. Gennandy Bogolubov, and his partner, the President of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine and the European Jewish Union, Mr. Igor Kolomoyskyi, and both have financed the complete project.
The Menorah Center will also serve as a self-supporting organization, with its revenue from leases and events supporting the vast activities of the local Jewish Community, headed by the local Chief Rabbi, Shmuel Kaminetzky.
Being the largest Jewish Center in the world and centrally located, the Menorah Center will surely become a powerful engine of economic and touristic growth for the city and specifically for its Jewish Community.
The Center constitutes of seven towers, symbolizing the seven branches of the Menorah (hence the name), with a total of 50,000 square meters (roughly 540,000 square feet), offering various services for the local Jewish community.
From an article in the L’Chaim Magazine a few years ago:
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson served as the Chief Rabbi of Yekatrinoslav for over 30 years from 1907 to 1939. In 1939 he was arrested by the communist regime for his fearless stance against the Communist Party’s efforts to eradicate Torah Judaism in the Soviet Union. After more than a year of torture and interrogations, he was sentenced to exile in Chi’ili, Russia. After completing four years in exile in Chi’ili, Reb Levi Yitzchak moved with his wife, Rebbetzin Chana (who had followed him into exile) to nearby Alma Ata, where he passed away less than four months later on 20 Av, 1944.
In June 1990, Rabbi Shmuel and Chana Kamenitsky moved to Yekatrinoslav, known today as Dnepropetrovsk. In 2008, nearly 70 years after Reb Levi Yitzchak’s was arrested for promoting Torah Judaism, work began on what will be the world’s largest Jewish center, to be known as the “Menorah Center.” It is being built on the property adjacent to Dnepropetrovsk’s Golden Rose Synagogue.
When completed, the center will consist of seven vertical towers resembling the seven branches of a Menorah. The symbolism of the project is underscored by the lighting scheme proposed for the future Jewish complex, the concept of which is that each evening, lighting will rotate from one tower to another, representing the lighting of a new candle each day beginning on the first day of the week. Correspondingly, the first day (Sunday) to the last (Saturday) will be fully covered by all seven towers.
The total area of the Menorah Center will comprise nearly 50,000 square meters.
Among the features anticipated for this future complex is a Museum of Jewish history and the Holocaust, conference halls, kosher restaurants, bookstores, space for classes and community programs, charities. There will also be a banquet hall for celebrations such as weddings and other Jewish life-cycle events. These facilities will be available to the Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk as well as other Jewish organizations active at the local, regional, national and international level.
As the largest Jewish community center in the world, the Menorah Center will complete the Dnepropetrovsk Central Synagogue campus, which already includes the buildings of the Rosalind Gorvin Jewish Community Center and the Chaya Rivka Women’s Mikva.
According to a JTA article, Alexander Sorin, the architect of the tower, is the son of a prominent Soviet-era architect who designed many of the major buildings in this industrial city. Foreigners stayed away during the Soviet era because of weapons technology research and construction facilities. The first floor leading through the Holocaust museum and the center will resemble a Jerusalem alleyway with brown stone and a slightly claustrophobic feel, Sorin said. The center will have a kosher hotel and lobby with an elevator programmed to allow observant passengers to ride on Shabbos. The community is seeking an independent contractor to run the hotel. There will be apartments for visiting Jewish educators and community workers, as well as office space to rent for Jewish-related entities such as the Jewish Agency for Israel, an Israeli consular office and other organizations. The Holocaust museum will feature the research of a group of scientists known as Tkuma, or “resurrection” in Hebrew, who have been collecting testimonies, artifacts and names of the 11,000 Jews killed by the Nazis in Dnepropetrovsk on Simchas Torah in 1943. The museum will accompany a sprawling monument in a local park with dozens of stones engraved with victims’ names. Activities run by the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community are spread out across dozens of buildings. The Menorah Center will centralize that activity, though most outlying facilities will remain.